20 March to 04 April 2011
So with Mark and his parents trekking in Nepal I decided to indulge in a little “me time” in the form of a detox and a bit of yoga on the southern Thai island of Koh Phangan. For a long time I’ve been fascinated by what an “extreme detox” involves and so here was my chance. Some questioned why I was spending “so much” money to be somewhere that didn’t even give you 3 square meals a day (although it was pretty cheap compared to what you’d pay in Europe for a health farm experience).
I decided to opt for the longer programme which started off with easing into things with 2 days of healthy eating – fruit for breakfast, salad for lunch and veggie noodle soup for dinner. Mmm, not too bad at all and what I really should be doing anyway! I also got my introduction to the “detox shake” – 2 a day at this stage. After the first 2 days followed a 7 day period of fasting and full on detox. The days involved a fairly full schedule, having to be somewhere for something at an appointed time around every hour or two, sometimes more often, starting at 7.30am with the first of the days FIVE “detox shakes”. Like some others on the programme I had naïvely thought these may be some delicious fruit based smoothie. Mmmm, nope. The ingredients are psyllium husk (and fibre and bulk and presumably the key to not getting too hungry) and bentonite (which tastes like clay because it is clay – sedimentary clay from volcanic ash – and good for drawing toxins out of your system). When mixed together they turn into a gloopy jelly and chalk tasting drink which gets gloopier the longer you take to drink it. So down in one was the key! “Deeeeelishous”, Noa the ever-smiling detox shaker maker and all round does everything guy used to say. Very easy to say when you’re not the one drinking it mate! We also had t= o take herbal supplements 5 times a day. The closest thing we got to real food was a carrot juice at midday, coconut water at 3 and a thin vegetable broth at 6pm so those moments became highlights. Actually the highlights were the daily massage, herbal steam and yoga class. And last but not least were the 2 a day self-administered colema’s and whilst not exactly highlights, once you worked out what went where they weren’t that bad! For the squeamish I won’t go into too much detail but they involved lying flat on your back, a tube and a large bucket of organic coffee. Let’s just say the tube wasn’t there to be used as a drinking straw! Apparently this is an excellent way to cleanse the liver and none of the caffeine is absorbed in the bad way it would be when you drink it. Anyway, since my experience I’ve gone right off coffee and haven’t been able to face a cup!
So whilst the trials and tribulations of our group of fasters was going on, the trials and tribulations of Mother Nature were knocking on our door. The weather had started to turn unusually stormy for the season a couple of days after I arrived with quite a bit of rain which got heavier and more constant until it turned into 24 hour a day storms. “Worst weather in 30 years” everyone kept saying! It was certainly the worst I’ve ever experienced in this part of the world, even in the rainy season. The island became knee-deep in water in parts, more vulnerable homes and bungalows were under threat and falling trees blocked the roads. I was glad I didn’t have to go anywhere. But we also had long power cuts (the longest being 36 hours with 2 nights in candlelight), and long phone outages. Boats stopped running to and from the island and eventually the British Embassy staff flew in and the Thai navy sent their only ship to pick people up. The larger and more popular island of Koh Samui next door was also badly effected and apparently had 14,000 tourists stranded there alone! The most ironic thing for me was that on the last day of my programme, following 2 days of fruit-eating, I was able to eat real food again off a real menu but went to the restaurant only find they had run out of most food due to supplies not being able to get to the island!
The weather drama seemed to over-shadow my achievement of going for 1 week without any solid food but maybe it was a good distraction. Finally the rain and wind tailed off and island life started to get back to normal. I had a date to meet Sonya and although I still had a couple of days I had originally planned to stay for, there was talk of more storms so I decided to get off the island whilst the waters were calm again. I thought that once I had got to the mainland, getting back to Bangkok would be straightforward – normally it’s just a case of jumping on an overnight bus or train. But information on the island was pretty limited and I didn’t realise that the roads are still heavily flooded so when I arrived and casually enquired what time the next bus to Bangkok was, I was a bit surprised to be told “No. No road, not possible”. They weren’t expecting it to open for at least 4 days. I’d heard the airport had reopened following the storms and found out that flights to Bangkok were still relatively affordable. Only problem? Access to the airport wasn’t possible either according to most people. Long story short I eventually found out that the Thai army were transporting people in trucks from the City Hall at 6am in the morning. So I had to leave my guesthouse at 5.30am for a 4pm flight – the longest check in ever done! At least I didn’t have to worry about missing it. I have attached a few pictures of my journey as they will tell the story better than my words …..
The water was extremely deep in many places and seeing the impact on people’s homes and lives hit home how destructive the storms really were. Some people were using small boats to get about and others were casting their fishing nets in the middle of what used to be roads but were now rivers. I was lucky being shipped out by the army but the people stuck looking out of their windows on the second floors or higher of their homes still smiled and waved as our convoy passed them. Only really once I was back in Bangkok did I have the chance to reflect on my experience. But yes I do feel healthier and more energised from the detox process and having seen what comes out of your body, more determined to think about what I put in it. Definitely.
OK, where did I put my G&T …….